Monty Skew, our political correspondent reports
The Chancellor is said to be in buoyant mood. Friends returning from Africa have told him of an unconventional natural resource which, they suggest, might be exploited with great benefit in the UK. In certain countries there, hunting is subjected to legal restrictions so as to soothe the sensibilities of western governments which are happy to pour in aid to maintain the life-styles which the recipient countries’ rulers consider necessary to maintain economic growth. However, by purchase of a special licence hunters, who are mostly wealthy foreign tourists, can buy the right to stalk and kill up to three animals, in designated areas. Sums needed for the purchase of a licence depend on the species concerned, and certain complexities, and can be very large indeed. Hunters must use the services of special agencies which arrange to provide drivers and guides as well as hiring staff from local populations to provide all luxuries needed for a high-end safari with appropriate celebratory photographs on its successful completion. ‘Animal rights’ groups may protest but actually there is no cruelty involved because skilled guides and their local assistants can ensure that the prey will be found in a suitable area and condition, and gun experts can enable even a rank beginner to make a kill with his first shot. Indeed the business is actually in the long-term interest of the animals themselves, both as individuals, since it saves them from a painful and lingering death through disease or as a result of encounters with other animals, and as a species since such carefully controlled culling prevents overpopulation and maintains the condition of the habitat.
The Chancellor is said to be keen to adopt a similar programme in Britain. Tourists would be allowed to buy a licence from a government agency and could then book a hunting tour with a company that would provide them with a government-trained guide, and a high-powered rifle, would designate the area and time span within which they may fulfil the quota they are entitled to, and provide all necessary gear and information, together with visual recognition aids (photographs) which would allow them to identify suitable prey (citizens over the age of 60 and in receipt of government benefits.) As with the African schemes, not only would the prey enjoy a quick and easy exit, the local area would benefit from the lower population density and demand on local services, and the state as a whole would benefit greatly from the licence fees and the accompanying boost to tourism.
It is proposed that a group should be formed to explore the possibilities, based on the Ministry of Culture, which is responsible for sport, but to be chaired by Ian Duncan Smith. Predictably, even though nothing definite has yet been decided upon, various groups are voicing protests, ranging from human rights campaigners to noise abatement groups and life insurance companies.